moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to present my bill entitled An Act to establish National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Day. I am very pleased that it has reached this stage and that it was all done so cordially.
This bill made it through all of the previous stages and has progressed nicely to this point. That is the result of everyone working together, and I sincerely hope that this will be a turning point in the lives of people living with a spinal cord injury.
I must also mention our partners who have supported us throughout this process and who were all involved in some way in the development of this bill. I am thinking about the Rick Hansen Institute, which provided us with data, Bobby White, the director of Spinal Cord Injury Canada, and Walter Zelaya, from MEMO-Que, who gave their full support without reservation.
With this bill, we want to designate the third Friday of September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. After a number of discussions, we concluded that this awareness day could be very useful to individuals, employers and stakeholders in various fields. It will certainly also have a very positive and significant impact on people living with spinal cord injuries.
I am quite certain that I will be able to show my esteemed colleagues that implementing this bill, which will not cost anything, can have a major and meaningful impact on people with spinal cord injuries. It will do so much to raise widespread awareness of their needs and abilities.
This bill would designate the third Friday of September as national spinal cord injury awareness day. Why that day? We took a number of factors into consideration, including two major ones: accidents that happen in the summer and accidents related to winter sports. The third Friday of September is also symbolic. There is an analogy here. When someone has just suffered a spinal cord injury, it is like autumn: they see dark days ahead. In the months after a spinal cord injury, patients have to cope with a kind of darkness that is comparable to a difficult and trying winter.
This simple and effective bill that will cost nothing provides one more tool to those involved in helping people with spinal cord injuries, as well as to agencies that work on prevention and raising public awareness and recognize the harsh reality just outside the door of the rehabilitation centre. That is exactly when spinal cord injury patients first feel that those around them really are looking at them differently, that each and every outing will require considerable effort and that their new limitations mean that they have to dig to the very depths of themselves as they try to improve their lives each day and start living anywhere close to the way they did previously. They have to have the courage to forgo some activities or to summon the perseverance they need to adapt those activities to their new reality.
This bill has three components. Naturally, raising awareness among our fellow Canadians is the first objective. We want people with spinal cord injuries to feel more encouraged to take an active part in society without any prejudice towards them. If possible, they should be encouraged to develop a talent and, even better, to use it for the benefit of others. In my view, that is a fundamental part of human activity.
This day will allow people with spinal cord injuries to communicate with each other, gather information about the possibilities open to them, and listen to people with experiences to share.
It is also about recognizing the determination of those with spinal cord injuries to build a new life. One of the biggest accomplishments for anyone with a spinal cord injury is understanding that life is going to have its challenges and costs. The higher the injury is on the spinal cord, the more severe the physiological damage is and the faster the aging process seems to go.
Even people whose work requires little physical effort run into problems in terms of getting around, transfers, personal care, housekeeping, ice, snow clearing and so on.
We also want to recognize the dedication of the people who help out on a daily basis. Thanks to them, the injured persons can resume a nearly normal life. This help goes a long way toward alleviating anxiety, problems of all kinds, and especially physical exhaustion. However, what is most important in my view is that these people gently force the injured to be disciplined and to tune out the little voice in their head that tells them in the morning that they do not have the desire, energy or need to get out of bed. Believe me, that little voice is tenacious and having someone to rely on during those times is truly a blessing.
I want to acknowledge the perseverance of scientists who, through their research, are improving the lives of thousands of people with spinal cord injuries. In recent years, there have been significant advances in the neurosciences, which study everything to do with the nervous system, such as the mapping of the sensorimotor cortex.
At the trauma unit at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal, you learn that the spinal cord is made up of nervous tissue and cells and that it looks like a cable the thickness of your little finger. It begins at the base of the brain and passes through each vertebra, ending between the first and second vertebrae. Basically, the spinal cord is the communication link between the brain and the body.
Adapting to a spinal cord injury is very difficult and takes a long time. It requires a great deal of personal effort by the injured person and the people around him or her. It turns a person's life upside down and is often accompanied by many negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger. It brings long hours of reflection interspersed with highs and lows.
However, as with any situation, there are also positives. Those with new injuries are taken care of by an interdisciplinary team that quickly addresses the objectives identified by specialists based on the injuries.
For several years, the notion of inclusion has dominated the debate on the place of people with disabilities in our society. A so-called inclusive society adapts to individual differences and anticipates people's needs in order to give them the best possible chance of success in life. As a result, in order for a society to be truly inclusive, collective will and collective mobilization are needed, on the part of society and the economic and political communities. They need to change their way of thinking and the way they organize things in order to integrate people who are sometimes more fragile.
Every little action to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities requires a collective and political effort, and I think that we are making such an effort today.
I also believe that as elected representatives, we must promote inclusiveness. We must position ourselves as open people who create bridges with our living environments. Of course, the inclusion of people with disabilities in society cannot be done without the support and knowledge of the medical, social and political sectors.
Finally, I sometimes get the impression that we have incorporated the notion of inclusion into our speeches, but it is difficult for a person with a disability to be convinced that political authorities are truly committed to the notion of inclusion because so much remains to be done in terms of accessibility and home care.
It is important to understand that the bill to designate a national spinal cord injury awareness day is much more than symbolic. It has the potential to help save lives and reduce the number of spinal cord injuries that happen in Canada every year.
Let us not miss this opportunity to help everyone. As I often say, spinal cord injuries do not discriminate.
As I went through the process that got me to the point of talking about this bill again today, I believe that I developed a better understanding of the real needs of people with spinal cord injuries. Let me explain. Naturally, people might think that I do not really understand them, but talking to other people can sometimes help us see other problems.
I gained a better understanding of what this special day on the calendar can contribute. This bill is representative of the political work we are all here to do because it helps us all better ourselves as a society in meaningful ways.
Sometimes we get the feeling that we are not doing enough, but in this case, even though this bill seems like a modest initiative at first glance, it is an incredible tool that leads us to a new stage in our progress toward accepting people with disabilities in Canada.
This step forward will lead to others and so on. The quality of life of all our fellow citizens, whether they are affected by spinal cord injuries or not, will certainly improve.
Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will ultimately significantly help improve health care, promote treatment advances, technological innovations and research in medical science, and even contribute to the Canadian economy.
Raising hope is a winning strategy, and today, the first thing we must do is make sure that this bill continues to make its way through the legislative process. We also need to make social acceptance more universal and to raise awareness among employers of the unsuspected qualities of those with spinal cord injuries, thereby making our communities more effective, productive and just.
The practical nature of this reality and the idealism of these principles work well together in this much-needed bill. We have to promote acceptance within social networks and value inclusion because it is both compassionate and for the common good.
I should mention that governments are doing their part when it comes to research, but most of the funding comes from appeals to the public's generosity. Creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day will allow for new fundraising opportunities. It will not cost us anything to provide this opportunity to organizations that offer services to persons with disabilities, and the potential returns could be extremely beneficial.
To sum up, this bill will help raise public awareness and acceptance of spinal cord injury victims. It will maximize funding and research initiatives and stimulate volunteer support and personal involvement in general. It can help communicate and draw attention to specific issues, while bringing together people on similar paths. It will validate the help and support provided by loved ones, family members, colleagues, neighbours and specialists, as well as the exceptional contribution of researchers in this area of expertise.
We are all equal before this terrible scourge and every bit of progress is a victory for all. My personal experience and that of the people I consulted, as well as the conversations I have taken part in, have convinced me that creating a national spinal cord injury awareness day is a productive, effective, economical and sensible way to do our part for Canadians with disabilities.
I often say that people living with a physical limitation who meet daily challenges have the same very strong abilities, qualities and character of people drawn to extreme sports. I am sure that my colleague across the way will agree with me. They have to have determination, courage, perseverance, and especially the will to improve their daily lives.
I think that we can do a better job of equipping these people to deal with what others would see as insurmountable obstacles. I recognize that it is often stressful and painful for the people around us, because they are not living it and do not truly understand. It is up to us to reassure them, if we want to maintain their friendship and respect, and to recognize that they may be an incredible, and even vital, source of support.